Art teacher helped kids get ‘hands-on’ experience for 30 years
NEW HAVEN — If you’ve taken an elementary or middle school art class in Addison County in the past 30 years, or your kids have, there’s a decent chance you’ve met Michaela Granstrom.
Granstrom, 62, had been gracing Addison County’s art classrooms for three decades before she retired in June of this year.
New Haven residents might also know Michaela Granstrom though the business that she manages with her husband, Chris Granstrom, 62: Lincoln Peak Winery.
“I’ve always liked doing art things,” Granstrom said. “My mother was an artist, so we had art all over the house.”
As an art major at Middlebury College, Granstrom began student teaching through the college at Mary Hogan Elementary School, teaching her favorite mediums, spinning and weaving.
After Middlebury, Granstrom earned her teaching degree at Antioch University, New England, and ended up teaching second though fifth grade in Dublin, N.H.
After a few years, she moved to Monkton where she married Chris.
“I worked as a fifth-grade teacher for three years,” Granstrom said. “Then I stopped doing classroom teaching and got into art teaching — and that’s when my daughter was born, in 1985.”
Perhaps what Granstrom liked best about teaching art was the enthusiasm that her students demonstrated when taking her classes.
“Kids love coming to art,” Granstrom said. “‘This is my faaavorite subject … you’re my best art teacher,’ you know, I’d get that from my kindergartners, who never had any other art teachers. So that really made it all worth it.”
Granstrom has left quite a legacy among her students. Rory Jackson, a Vermont artist who specializes in oil painting landscapes, was a former student of Granstrom’s.
“I have a lot of respect for her. She has managed a classroom for 30 or more years, and to me that is a huge accomplishment,” said Jackson, who works out of a studio on Main Street in Bristol and recently had a well-received show of landscapes at Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury. “I have been invited to her classroom to teach with her on two occasions through a local grant and was impressed with her ability to both allow the students to explore with real oil paints, and to keep them all focused on the lesson and not body painting each other.”
What’s the key to helping students learn the nuances of art?
“Experimentation is really a key thing for them,” Granstrom said. “Kids don’t use their hands enough to see what they can actually do and make.”
“I remember this one particular student, who was having trouble in some of the other academic areas, was just so proud when she finished this basket,” she said. “She just had to go around to show everyone what she’d made with her own hands.”
Granstrom plans to keep up with her own artwork after her retirement.
“I still have plenty of energy to do things,” she said. “I’m retired just so I can go out and do some of the things that I haven’t had the chance to do before.”
She said that she plans to take a vacation in March with her husband. But mostly she plans to stick around, create her own art and work at the winery.
According to her online bio for Lincoln Peak Winery’s website, she has plans to do all three:
“I also enjoy bringing my artistic sense to the tasting room — be sure to check out the floor when you visit.”